It is a learning year for Stealth rookie Alex Turner and he’s soaking things up like a sponge.
The 22-year-old Canadian scored two goals in San Jose’s 11-10 victory over the visiting Edmonton Rush last Saturday.
It was a three-week wait since his previous start but he’s a patient young man. He knew he wouldn’t get to play all the games so he makes sure he’s ready when he’s called upon. The way the leftie is playing, he’s going to be called on more and more.
``I’m watching Colin Doyle, Cam Sedgwick and Tommy Johnson a lot,’’ says Turner. ``I’m learning a lot watching those guys on the left side.
``Sitting out sometimes helps. It makes my game better. I’m learning where they move, when they move and how they move. Being a young guy, I’m here to learn. I need to be ready when they need me and I have to be ready to fill any role they want me to fill.’’
That kind of team-first attitude goes a long way towards making general manager John Mouradian and assistant GM Doug Locker thankful he was still available when San Jose’s third-round turn came up in the 2008 NLL entry draft. Turner was the 32nd player selected.
``I really wasn’t sure what to expect,’’ Turner says of his draft-day take on things. ``But Johnny and Doug said there’d be playing time if I worked for it.’’
Working for it is not a problem. Turner is committed to a rigorous physical fitness regime.
``I’m at the gym every day doing weights and jogging,’’ he says.
This autumn, he’ll attend Douglas College in British Columbia to study human kinetics. His ultimate goal is to become an athletic trainer.
``It’s something that has interested me since I was young,’’ he explains. ``The idea just grew and grew. I like researching the different exercises and effects they on people and stuff like that. I’d love to some day open my own little gym and do treatment and train people.’’
Turner lives in the Vancouver-region community of New Westminister, where he played for the Salmonbellies in the B.C. junior league last summer. The six-foot, 200-pound attacker had a team-best 63 points. He graduates to the B.C. senior amateur league this summer to stay in top condition for NLL pro winter ball.
He first picked up a lacrosse stick at age nine. He’d been playing hockey, a sport he continued with until age 16.
``I played triple-A midget but wasn’t having fun with it anymore,’’ he recalls. ``I had a lot more fun playing lacrosse so I kept it up, which led me to New Westminster.’’
It is a sport that, once one has tried it, can quickly get into the blood. That’s what happened with Turner.
``It’s the fastest game around,’’ he says. ``The speed, the contact, the size of the guys you’re playing against . . . it’s an awesome game.’’
Turner is difficult to check and he gets away his shots with a quick release that can handcuff goalies.
As usual, due mainly to his rookie status, he’ll have to wait until Saturday to learn if he’ll be in the lineup against the Portland Lumberjax. The Stealth will play the Jax at home on Saturday and in Portland on Sunday. With San Jose battling for a playoff berth entering the home stretch of the 16-game schedule, the results of the two games will have significant ramifications for the Stealth in the West Division standings.
``It’s a physically demanding sport so playing two games the same weekend is going to be tough,’’ says Turner. ``You wake up the next day and you’re pretty sore.’’
In one previous meeting this winter, the Stealth dropped a 16-13 decision in Portland on Feb. 7.
Turner will fly from Vancouver to San Jose with Sedgwick, Curtis Hodgson, Matt Roik, Peter Veltman, Steve McKinlay and Andrew Biers. They’ll pass the time in airport waiting rooms talking about what they’ve been up to, what the Stealth have to do to win this weekend, and they’ll rehash the previous weekend’s results around the league.
When it comes time to play, Turner will be ready to pull on sweater No. 22, which he wears because his birthday is Jan. 22.
It often takes a player arriving straight out of junior a year or two, at least, to earn a starting job in the NLL. Exceptional athletes beat the odds, and Alex Turner is showing that he is in that category.